What Marvel needs to learn from The Walking Dead before Avengers 4

Sam Ashurst

It’s one of the most successful comic-book adaptations of all time, loyally adapting much-loved stories and characters while making tweaks and changes where necessary. Yes, it’s dark – but with cool leads and a snarky sense of humour, it’s maintained a level of popularity that’s surprised media commentators across the globe.

Oh, and – SPOILERS FOLLOW – it also kills off enough key characters to keep fans on their toes, including a teenager you thought would be around for the long haul.


But are we talking about The Walking Dead or the MCU / Infinity War? Is the dead teenager Carl or Spider-Man?

That fact the two properties so interchangeable should be worrying for Marvel – especially as they’re starting to make the same massive mistake The Walking Dead did, a mistake that completely destroyed a property that everyone assumed would stumble on forever.

That mistake? Lying to your audience.

Look, we get it – killing off characters like Spider-Man, Star-Lord and Black Panther is a massive subversion of expectations for everyone in the cinema. The obsessive fans who know that Marvel have Spider-Man 2 and Guardians Vol 3 on their future slate were as shocked as audience members who don’t follow every single detail of corporate scheduling.

We also get that every franchise wants their own ‘Jon Snow moment’ – a death-based cliffhanger that shocks the audience so much that it’s all anyone can talk about until the next instalment.

This image released by Marvel Studios shows, from left, Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Dave Bautista, Chris Pratt and Pom Klementieff in a scene from “Avengers: Infinity War.” (Marvel Studios via AP)

The Walking Dead certainly wanted a Jon Snow moment, it’s why they pretended to kill Glenn, throwing him under a bin to create a preposterous cliffhanger ending that everyone knew was a fake-out.

It was so clear that the showrunners wouldn’t kill off Glenn at that point (he had a much more iconic death in the comics, which fans knew was on the way) that the act felt cheap, especially when the show tried to pretend that it was really real, and Glenn was definitely dead. Sound familiar?

“[Avengers 4] doesn’t do what you think it does,” said Infinity War writer Christopher Markus told Buzzfeed. “It is a different movie than you think it is.”

“Also…[the deaths are] real. I just want to tell you it’s real, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you will be able to move on to the next stage of grief.”

Suuuuure Chris, sure. We believe you, just like we believed Kit Harrington when he said over and over again that Jon Snow was dead. Game Of Thrones got away with it, because it was a relatively original thing to do, and it was an integral part of George RR Martin’s source books. The Walking Dead, not so much.

Glenn’s fake death can be identified as a turning point for The Walking Dead, it’s the show’s jump-the-shark moment, losing the audience’s trust to such an extent that showrunner Scott Gimple has been scrambling ever since, with a series of bad decisions leading the show to its current low.

The Walking Dead has gone from the most popular show on cable to one that’s in such a steady decline, media commentators are predicting that it won’t be long before literally no-one’s watching the show.

Seriously, it can’t be overestimated how massively The Walking Dead fell off the cliff (which is the danger of too many cliffhangers), turning die-hard fans into completely indifferent folks who spend their time doing something else.

In this image released by AMC, Danai Gurira, left, and Andrew Lincoln appear in a scene from “The Walking Dead.” (Gene Page/AMC via AP)

As much as this golden age of the MCU looks like it’ll last forever, nothing does. And, while we hope that Marvel has this level of success for as long as possible (we love their films as much as the next fan), we’re worried all the popularity the MCU’s currently enjoying could be snapped out of existence at the click of a finger.

That’s because nothing ends a friendship faster than a betrayal.

Learn the lesson Marvel – don’t patronise your audience, don’t try to trick us. We know Thanos’ finger-snap will be undone, what will compel us into the cinema next year is to find out HOW.

The more you tell us it’s not going to happen, the more annoyed we’re going to be when it does.

And, moving into the next Phase, the one where all of your current banker actors will be out of contract, the last thing you want is an annoyed audience.

You’ve seen how quickly the fans turned on Star-Lord – that’s how easy it is for one wrong decision to make a massive impact on the franchise.

So, don’t be Star-Lord and slap your fans in the face while your movies are in the middle of wrestling all of your audience’s money away from them.

Be respectful, shut up, and let us enjoy the wait for the next Avengers movie, you know, without telling us we’re idiots.

The MCU has brought television style structure to the big screen, don’t bring the concept of sudden cancellations with it.

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